The Kettle Explained

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One of the blogs that intrigued me on those excellent blogging 101 and 102 courses was T.J. Paris’s A ma vie de coer entier, with its tagline, “La Vie est Trop Courte pour Boire du Mauvais Vin”, its array of medallion photos, and above all its ongoing account, in the style of an 18th Century novel, of a trip to Oxford by a certain Papa Bouilloire.

One gets an idea of who bloggers are through  their About page, where T.J. writes:

La Vie est Trop Courte pour Boire du Mauvais Vin. “Life is too short to drink bad wine” penned Goethe in one of his lighter moments and it has a real resonance for me. If you are going to do something, then make sure it is worthwhile! (Drinking good wine is also highly recommended!)

A ma vie de coer entier – To my life with all my heart This is an ancient inscription and message of love, found on a poesy ring inscribed, in quaint and badly spelled French dating from the 15th Century. I chose it for the name of my Blog as I believe that living a rich life is something that you should dedicate your whole heart to.

Informative as this is, it didn’t quite satisfy my curiosity, so I wrote to TJ asking if I could send him a few more questions. His answers are here:

1. Where does your interest in France come from?
My Grandfather was an author who loved European literature and culture so we were always encouraged to read from his library and I fell in love with France through books, mainly 18tth century and 19th century histories, travel stories and early novels. Like most Australians, we had a great mixture of predecessors  from all over Europe including England, Scotland, France and even Schleswig- Holstein (as my grandfather was fond of telling) so European music, art and culture was a staple diet between trips to the beach and mucking around “in the bush”. Throw in a compulsive interest in French art and design then I suppose you have the recipe for the perfect Francophile. Mind you it was a close run thing between France and Regency England for a while.
2. Where does the (brilliant) name Papa Bouilloire come from?
I noticed that, unlike a sensible English (and Australian) hotel which usually supplies a kettle and some sort of tea and coffee making facilities, French hotels have no such thing. Consequently I thought it very clever of me to take a small electric kettle with me to France so that we could have a hot drink in the hotel in the evening. I proudly told this wonderfully sensible measure to my French friend thinking he would praise my good judgement. Unfortunately he was horrified and when I asked him what I was to do when I wanted a coffee in the evening he said simply “Why, you go out and buy one of course.” Because of my yokel attitude he dubbed me “Pa Kettle” in French and said it also matched my “pot boiler” writing style. We are still great friends but the name stuck.
3. Your Bouilloire writing style is deliberately ‘old-fashioned’. Does this reflect your own reading preferences?
I definitely prefer earlier writing and found the early English (and French) novels composed as a collection of letters particularly enjoyable. I also love Tobias Smollett’s great travel story “Humphrey Clinker” which no one seems to have heard of any more but is an absolutely hilarious tale of a misfit family’s journey through England and Europe in the late 18th century. These early novels never take themselves too seriously and I just love the mock heroic way they talk of the most mundane actions to show how absurd people and situations can be.
4. Where does your interest in porcelain come from?
In my other life I actually speak Japanese and developed an interest in Japanese art and antiques as part of my studies. In a strange twist I became aware of how much French art and design from the mid 19th Century until the 1920s was directly influenced by Japanese art and went from loving Japanese porcelain and art objects to European porcelain and antiques. I love the fact that most of the Impressionists were also great collectors of Japanese woodblock prints.
5. Who do you support when France play the Wallabies? (Had to put that in, being Welsh, but maybe you don’t like rugby at all!)
Western Australia has only just become Rugby wise. When I grew up it was strictly Cricket and Australian Rules Football. We had heard of Rugby and soccer but only as something “The Brits” play. I would have to say Wallabies out of loyalty and a sense of hope for the underdog. [Comment: Perhaps when they play the All Blacks, TJ, but they’re never the underdogs against Wales!]
With TJ’s consent, I share these answers with you, and for those who don’t know it, invite you to visit his blog. It has some beautiful photographs, a haiku poetry challenge, and of course the Papa Bouilloire story, with the name now fully explained. Bonne lecture!

Pic’n’Post event n° 2

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The second Pic’n’Post was a bit disorganised as I was travelling and unable to remind or respond as I would have liked. But two wonderful participants braved these conditions – many thanks to both!

Izzy had a typically thrilling story based on a walk in the woods, where some rather nasty gnomes lurked.

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And a very cute picture of Lewis provided inspiration for JoHanna – anyone up for a game of poker?

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Next deadline: Monday 30th March. And I’ll make sure to be blogging this time! A reminder of the rules is here.

Pic’n’Post event n° 1

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I round up here the contributions for the first Pic’n’Post event  – many thanks to these pioneering participants!

This one from Chris di Petro captures the essence of Venice Beach nicely: a coming together of dreams and reality in a buzzing, endless performance.

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And from Doncaster in the UK, a sunset over Marshgate provided inspiration for twenty7zero3, chilling and beautiful at once.

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Izzy’s stories of the hair barrette revisited childhood, with a real ouch moment in the true one!

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From anniewhere she goes, an intriguing picture in the park in Islamabad reminded me of my visit there, though I never got to see the park in question.

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Next deadline: Monday 9th March. I’ll post a reminder next week, but you don’t hesitate to dig out those inspiring pics straightaway!

OGB update + poll

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A perfectly timed 201 assignment today! Allows me to (i) give a brief update on One Green Bottle and (ii) collect your thoughts. What more could I ask for?

(i) OGB is now one of the editor’s picks on Book Country. Not entirely sure what that means but it can only be good! Meanwhile, after scouring query shark, I realised my own query letter sucks. So I’ve done it again and soon it’ll be off to more agents.

(ii) The survey below is really quick and easy. Just a few yes/no questions, but your answers will be much appreciated!

Thursday Interview: Sisyphus

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– Now I’ve heard you have one of the toughest jobs on earth. Can you describe a typical day?

– Typical? Hah! My days are identical! Up at the crack of dawn, ten minute drive to the bottom of the slope, then it’s heave, heave, till nightfall.

– When you say heave, you mean you’re pushing a rock, I believe.

– Yup. All 526 pounds of it. Up a 1.4 mile slope that in parts is one in five. I get to the top, the rock rolls all the way down, then I walk back down myself and start all over again. I’ve been doing it for over 2500 years. Not that it makes much sense to count because I’ll be doing it for eternity.

– Wow! But why? Surely not out of choice?

– No, of course not. It’s a punishment from Zeus. I can understand, in a way. I cheated death, you see. Hades – the Grim Reaper, if you like – came to arrest me with this fancy set of chains, so I tricked him into showing me how they worked – on himself! It still makes me chuckle today. Upshot was that with Death in chains, no one could die any more. You’d have these guys getting hacked to bits on the battlefield and turning up for duty the next day. It made a mockery of the whole business of war. Not much wonder Zeus got mad. But even so, when the punishment was announced, I went into a state of shock. I didn’t think anyone could be that cruel. But when it comes to cruelty, Zeus is in a league of his own.

– And it’s been the same all this time? Nothing’s changed and nothing ever will?

– Oh, there’ve been a few changes. You could say it’s got a bit better. When I started, it was in Greece, and man, that was tough. So damnably hot! And the slope was steeper too. So I’ll always be grateful to the Brits for granting me political asylum. A couple of hundred years ago, bloke by the name of Byron came out, heard about my plight and took pity. Started a campaign to get me moved to better conditions. Fortunately the Greeks didn’t care one way or the other, at least not at the time. Now that I’m a tourist attraction, they’re trying to get me back – a package with the Elgin Marbles – but I don’t think it’ll happen. I’ve got a Facebook support group and Amnesty International behind me. There’d be an uproar.

– But how on earth do you put up with it? How do you keep going?

– No choice, man! Look for the positives, that’s the only way. The view when I get to the top – the Cotswolds – or the people who cheer me on. You get the occasional insult, but they’re mostly very supportive. Sometimes they’d even lend a hand, till Health and Safety stepped in. Now there’s a fence on either side, which in fact I prefer. They just upset my rhythm. But still, I always let them. So then they could go and tell their mates they’d helped old Sisyphus with his rock.

– But even so, to think you’ll be doing this forever… Doesn’t it drive you crazy?

– Well, you know what? I represent the human condition. No kidding!  Absurdity – that’s what it’s all about, apparently. This French fellow, Camus, came to visit and we had a few chinwags and he wrote a book about me. The Myth of Sisyphus. To be honest, I’ve never read it, but I was flattered he even bothered to take an interest. Rolling this rock for ever and ever – it does sound pretty absurd, doesn’t it? But Camus also says, ‘One must imagine Sisyphus happy.’ And strangely enough, he’s right. Things could be better, of course, but what if I just gave up – lay down and let the rock flatten me? What sort of message would that send out?

The Shakasha Shambles

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So off I went to the Boboka Primary School for my weekly Shimaoré class, thinking it would be the usual: a whirlwind of words held together by fiendish bits of grammar invented for the sole purpose of confusing me. But instead, our teacher, Gaucher – his nickname, French for left-handed, because he’s, well, left-handed – wrote the lyrics to Shakasha on the board.

Shakasha biyaya na shigoma, Ngoma zatru za zamani

Yilalihwa Mirereni ya Sufu Ali, Karibu na Malamani etc

Shakasha is a dance. So once he’d got us all singing the song, Gaucher took us out to the balcony and taught us how to do it. (i) Four steps forward, starting with left foot,     (ii) Raise right foot, clap, (iii) Three steps back, clap. There you go – simple, isn’t it? Now you know the Shakasha.

As my wife will tell you, having been subjected many times to my valiant, eager, but ultimately sad attempts at le rock’n’roll, I am the world’s worst dancer. But even I could manage the Shakasha. Or so I thought.

Because then it got trickier. You go round in a circle doing the forward – back – clap bit, and two people, alternately spaced, break out of the circle to do the steps in the middle. Then, as they’re going back to their places, the next two do likewise. So everyone does it twice, once with a partner two places to the left, once with a partner two places to the right, with just enough time in between for the intervening couple to have their go.

The result, obviously, was a mess. A sort of Blind Man’s Buff with everyone wearing a blindfold. But Gaucher was very patient, and after an hour of this, we were drenched in sweat but had just about got the hang of it. Then came the announcement: ‘You’ll be performing this in the Baobab Stadium for National Language Day.’

Cue guffaws of incredulity all round. But no, I kid you not. Just two weeks to rehearse. The song, apparently, is an exhortation to preserve Mahorais traditions. I don’t know if Gaucher realises yet that what was once a beautiful dance will henceforth be known as The Shakasha Shambles.

Pic’n’Post Event Announcement

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Introduction. Which is better, a great idea in a poorly written story, or a poor idea in a beautifully written story? The second, without a doubt – that’s one reason why it’s not ideas that are copyrighted, but the actual writing. But if you can combine the idea and the writing, you’re home and dry! Pic’n’Post is a place to suggest ideas, offer them for others to elaborate on as they wish.

Rules. A Pic’n’Post submission should contain:

  • A photograph you’ve taken
  • A brief (about 100 words) idea for a story prompted by the photo
  • A brief text explaining the true story behind the photo

An example of my own is the watermelons. After the fiction idea, the second text tells the true story. So that’s the third part of Pic’n’Post, because very often, the story behind a photo can be instructive or amusing in itself.

To participate, simply publish a Pic’n’Post submission on your blog and send me a link in the comments below. This isn’t a contest, so there are no winners as such – all participants win the right to be inspired! And a nice little badge 🙂

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Deadline: Every fortnight, Monday, 6 pm GMT, starting Monday February 23rd.

Why are bees yellow?

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So you’re a writer, I see. But tell me, does anyone read your books?

Not yet. But that’s the whole point of getting onto social networks, you see. I’ve got a blog to publicise my writing, and I’m using Twitter to –

Stop! 140 characters max. Short, sharp, to the point. What’s your message to these readers you’re looking for?

Um… One Green Bottle. Available for just $4 free for next 5 mins. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity. Get it now. And I mean #now!

And you think they’ll fall for that? Oh, Bausse, whom no one’s ever heard of, has written a book. I really must read it. Very likely!

Well, how else am I going to become famous and earn a zillion dollars?

Subtlety, Bausse, subtlety! Slip it into a conversation unobtrusively.

OK, I get it! Must admit I’m pretty green when it comes to Twitter. Green as a bottle, in fact. Which reminds me: One Green Bottle avail-

Good try, but no. Look, check out today’s blogging 201 task. You’ll see for example that the best tweets are in the form of questions.

Ah, that’s interesting. Let’s see now… Has anyone else been wondering why so many bottles are green?

Good luck with that one. You’re not very good at this, are you? Have you joined any Twitter chats?

No, but I’m going to join #greenwater. It’s about algae but I’m sure they won’t mind if mention bottles.

Can I make a suggestion, Bausse? Why don’t you sign up for Pinterest?

Pic’n’Post: Slime and Pterodactyls

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The story-teller’s picture. ‘What do you think, Malone? Is this it?’ Lord Roxton gazed down at the emerald green lake, eyes wide with amazement. His companion nodded slowly. He had no doubt. This was it – the end of their long, arduous journey. The reason they’d risked death so many times. At last they had reached their destination.

The picture-taker’s story. The story above isn’t mine, but Conan Doyle’s, published in 1912. I never read the book, but I saw the film as a boy and I was transfixed. Man-eating plants, giant spiders, hostile tribes. The Lost World had it all. In fact, Lake Dziani, in a voclanic crater on Petite Terre, Mayottte, is easier to reach – a fifteen minute climb to the rim, then an hour to walk all around. But as soon as I saw it, I was back in The Lost World. Its green, sulphuric slime teems with life, and it’s forbidden to go down to the edge. We did, of course, bring back a pterodactyl, but unfortunately it escaped. Just like in the film.

Merci, Dédé!

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Since France must now administer Mayotte, it’s generous towards the administrators. I think the reasoning is that if you live in mainland France, you’d have to be mad to go anywhere else; therefore, to attract public sector employees, you must give them all sorts of perks. Among these are free transport from the Metropole. Furniture, car, plane ticket – they’ll even pay for your dog if you have one (not for your spouse, though, or at least not for me – a retired blogvelist doesn’t count).

So we stuffed our Panda full of stuff we thought would be useful – cushions, shelves, boxes of books, microwave – and put it on a container. For some reason which was never made fully clear, it arrived a month late (something about getting lost near South Africa), and when we did finally unload it, we saw we’d forgotten the metal sides to the crappy sub-Ikea bookshelf.

My suggestion was three or four bricks between each shelf, but Mrs. B. had something more aesthetic in mind. And you have to admit, the result’s pretty classy, n’est-ce pas?

Now, I could stop there and let you suppose I did it myself. But I cannot lie. Anything more complicated than putting one brick on top of another is beyond me. So the shelves were stacked against a wall, and the books remained in their boxes, until Dédé, my DIY genius of a brother-in-law, came to visit. And a couple of days later we had our bookshelf.

Not without some effort, though, to which I greatly contributed. Well, I took the photos, anyway -:)

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Now I wonder when I’ll get round to unpacking those boxes…